Whether it's called a studio apartment, bachelor apartment, efficiency apartment, or studio flat, the answer to the question "What is a studio apartment?" remains the same: It's a self-contained living unit with the bedroom, living room, and kitchen all in a single open space.
That's right -- a studio apartment allows (or requires) you to do all your living, eating, and sleeping in one room with no barrier walls. But you don't have to do absolutely everything in the same room. A studio should have a separate room with a door for the bathroom. If it doesn't, it might be illegal to rent in some states.
To people following the tiny-house movement, the virtues of studio apartments are many and obvious. But for those with a ton of possessions who are used to having more room to stretch out, studio life might be a little tight.
The advantages of studio apartments
"Moving into a studio apartment can be a great way to save money on rent without getting a roommate or settling for a less-than-desirable neighborhood," says Niccole Schreck, a rental experience expert. "You could save on your monthly rent as much as $924 in Denver, $867 in New York City, $500 in Los Angeles, and $427 in Minneapolis by choosing a studio over a one-bedroom apartment."
That's a lot of cheddar. Another financial advantage of the studio apartment? Utility bills will likely be lower. A small space is cheaper to heat and cool, and the entire unit could be illuminated with a single light placed in a strategic location. Also, there's not a lot of room for a bunch of gadgets to sit around sucking up energy.
And cleaning the place is a snap, according to many studio apartment dwellers. Since there's little room for clutter, it's a lot easier to clean and maintain. Of course, you will need to find a place to stash the few cleaning products you'll need.
The challenges of studio apartments
But there are a few drawbacks as well.
"Living in a studio while I was a proud, single cat lady was so much fun. It was super easy to keep clean. I didn't have to spend a fortune to decorate it well, and the rent and utilities were affordable," says Erica D. House, a lifestyle expert and blogger. "Once I got married, I couldn't fathom living with my husband in less than 500 square feet! We both like our alone time to veg out and do what we'd like to on our own, and that would have been impossible while living in a studio."
When House moved into a studio apartment, she had to get rid of at least 50% of her possessions -- plus, she had to think twice about her purchases. Would there be room in the closet for that shirt? Room on the shelf for that book? She considered the constraint a mixed blessing.
Some studio apartment dwellers get around the lack of storage space by renting a storage unit -- although the cost of storage might mitigate the financial benefits of renting a studio apartment in the first place.
But for those who are willing to streamline their lives and spend less time and money maintaining their living space, the studio apartment could be just the thing! They don't call them efficiency apartments for nothing.
Canadian cities top the world for the real estate markets that make the best bet for long-term investment, according to a study from U.K. property developer Grosvenor — but they may not be such a great investment in the short term.
Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary took the top three spots, respectively, on the survey that aims to measure which real estate markets are the most resilient, and therefore make the best long-term investment.
“The top three most-resilient cities in Grosvenor's Resiliency index are Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. For investors in property and real estate, it makes Canada a very sound long-term investment."
Barkham singled out Toronto for praise, saying the city’s long-term commitment to developing and upgrading infrastructure placed it at the top of the rankings.
The three top-ranking cities were the only Canadian ones surveyed in the study. Chicago came in fourth place.
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Best Real Estate Markets For Long-Term Investment
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But the study doesn’t put to rest the argument that Canada may be facing a housing bubble, as it doesn’t look at what could happen to real estate markets in the short term. Of the rankings’ top 20 markets, eight are in the U.S., whose housing markets are just now recovering from the bursting of last decade’s bubble.
In fact, in the short term, Canada’s real estate markets are more prone to ups and downs than average, Grosvenor suggested.
"If you are investing with a short-term perspective, a portfolio of the resilient cities won't necessarily be less volatile; in fact you would have a more volatile portfolio if you only invested in the top five cities,” Barkham said.
To determine a real estate market's long-term strength, the study looked at “environmental and social vulnerability and adaptive capacity,” covering areas such as infrastructure, environment and climate.
“In our view, environmental sustainability, community liveability and economic prosperity are all necessary components of long-term city resiliency,” Grosvenor CEO Patrick Phillips said.
It’s been easy to shrug off the U.S. sanctions against Russia as something that only impacts people half a world away. That could be changing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that wealthy Russians, who have become a big part of the luxury real estate market in places like New York and Miami, may be sitting on the sidelines while our two countries duke it out on the diplomatic stage.
Julie Satow, a contributor to The New York Times, took a closer look at the issue and told The Daily Ticker about a member of Russia’s parliament who “was looking for a $25 million-$52 million purchase and he sent [his realtor] an email after the invasion saying ‘I’m sorry. I’m pulling out.’”
The unidentified rich Russian isn’t the only one. Satow notes that anti-American propaganda runs rampant in Moscow and it may not be the best time for Russian citizens to flaunt the fact that they are making a big splash in the New York real estate market.
Gone are the days, perhaps, of record breaking buys like that of the daughter of billionaire Dmitriy Rybolovlev, who purchased an $88 million condo in 2011. While that was the highest-priced example, Russians and other wealthy international clients have long used U.S. real estate as a shelter for their cash. Satow says 40% of the New York real estate market is made up of foreigners and 50% of new construction is snapped up by clients overseas.
So will frosty relations between Moscow and Washington send Russian money elsewhere for good? Probably not. While there may be a “momentary freeze” of such big purchases, Satow suggests the safety of the American market may soon bring in “more buyers...but they may not want to do the super high profile penthouses.” Instead, she says, they might opt for more "conservative" $2 million apartments that won’t make the papers here and back home.
If things go south at the Kremlin and elsewhere in the country a whole other scenario could play out stateside. “They may end up thinking about emigrating and if they do they’d bring their families - it would be a far different thing - they’d want a more permanent residence here," Satow says.
While this trend certainly hasn’t reached “crisis” level for big city real estate, the strained U.S/Russia relationship is proving to be more than theoretical and has begun to have a real world impact that some Americans can feel.
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With talk about a 1987-like stock-market crash, geopolitical unrest in Ukraine and the risk of a debt crisis in China, investors are starting to get jittery.
The S&P 500’s SPX+0.25% outsized gain of 30%-plus last year certainly can’t be repeated. And if the first quarter is any indication, not many investors will make much money by owning the benchmark index.
For the record, I do not think a major correction is in order for equities. I expect the volatility we’ve seen this year — something that’s held back the S&P 500 to a gain of only 1.3% — is pretty much what’s in store for the rest of 2014. I predict we’ll finish with the S&P 500 around 1,950 on Dec. 31. (It’s now at about 1,897.)
As it becomes increasingly clear that the Federal Reserve is on track to raise key interest rates in the next 12 to 18 months, the rate on mortgages has been creeping higher too.
Mortgage rates were elevated in March, and interest rates are flirting with a monthly average of 4.5% on a 30-year fixed – which, according to Freddie Mac mortgage survey data, would mark the highest levels since July 2011.
Consider that a $200,000 loan at a 3.5% rate works out to about $900 per month, while a 4.5% rate is just shy of $1,015 — a difference of $115 monthly for the same home. And for more expensive houses, the difference is even more dramatic.
This additional cost burden could price people into smaller homes or deter them from shopping altogether. And, remember, this recent rate increase has occurred even without a Fed-driven rate hike behind it, so mortgage interest rates could move significantly higher across the coming months.
And let’s not even get into what an increase in rates could do to those without fixed mortgages who will see payments adjust up as a result.
The bottom line is that higher borrowing costs will undoubtedly cool some of the demand for housing by the time we hit the key house-shopping months of spring and summer 2015.
Prices fueled by low supply
Sure, numbers released last week from data firm CoreLogic showed yet another uptick in prices nationwide. Specifically, February prices rose at the fastest year-over-year pace since 2006.
I generally try to avoid blanket statements such as this, but I'm confident I will never invest in the following two types of real estate:
1. A Speculative Development Project I know, I know some of the most successful real estate investors in the world have made vast fortunes and built empires through development. I just won't be one of them. Right or wrong, here is my rationale:
Development is all about timing and I'm not clever enough to consistently time the market over an entire investing career. Often the best time to build is when the market is in the gutter and development doesn't "pencil" (i.e. the numbers look awful). If you start to build when the market is on fire, you'll often miss the party before you finish construction.
Developers often have to "land bank" to wait for the right time to build. The holding cost of land creates a negative carry investment, which eats into the project's final returns.
The entitlement and permitting process is expensive and tortuous. Get out your checkbook, because every consultant and city agency is going to have its hand out. The EIR (Environmental Impact Report) alone can wreck a pre-development budget (traffic study, wind study, etc.) and everything takes 2-3 times longer than your "most conservative" project timeline.
Too much construction / execution risk. One failed development can crush a company's reputation and balance sheet; erasing years of positive returns. Why not let others develop and just wait for a market dip to buy buildings below replacement cost?
2. A Suburban Office Property I probably wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I owned a leveraged office property outside of a major city. Here's why:
Insufficient and Difficult to Predict Tenant Demand. National suburban office vacancy rates already range from 15-20% and now more Millennials are opting to work in the urban core. This is a scary trend for suburban office investors.
Costly Leasing and Ongoing Capital Expenditures. While each market and lease negotiation has its own quirks, an office landlord is generally responsible for tenant improvement allowances (cost to build tenant's space), which can run between $20-$40 per square foot. So on a 5,000 square foot office suite the landlord might front $100,000-$200,000 in construction costs building out a customized office suite.
To give you an example of how tenant improvements can put the landlord in a tough position, here is a landlord scenario from the credit crisis:
3. Suburban Office Investment Horror Story
Credit crisis hits – a large suburban office complex loses its major tenant, a now defunct regional law firm that took up 60% of the building's rentable square footage.
The space sits vacant for TWO YEARS as the landlord waits for another professional services firm to take the existing office improvements (lots of large private offices, wood paneling, bookcases and file cabinets everywhere).
Landlord capitulates and finally decides to demo the existing improvements in order to show the potential of the space to a larger range of tenants. The landlord also spends over $100,000 on a speculative tenant build out (showcase unit) of a vacant suite.
After months of negotiation the landlord finally lands a tenant, a start up company (huge credit risk, but the owner was desperate at this point) and then pays the tenant's broker and his leasing broker a staggering amount of money in commissions.
Speculative build out is demolished – $100K+ gone – to accommodate the new tenant's open space plan. Landlord is forced refinance to pull equity out of the property to fund tenant improvements and modernize the building elevators (a condition of the new lease).
Yikes...no thank you.
While there are certainly exceptions, the capital requirements of tenant turnover coupled with excessive vacancy during recessions are not worth the potential returns of suburban office investments. Personally, I prefer investing in assets that kick off a lot of fairly predictable cash flow, with minimal ongoing capital requirements. This is why I love multifamily real estate investments.
Multifamily Investments Are Far More Capital Efficient
Turning an apartment unit often means a patched wall or two, a new coat of paint, a carpet cleaning and boom...ready to release in a day or two. With mobile home parks – my favorite real estate investment – it gets even better as you're only leasing land. Last time I checked, land doesn't require much in the way of ongoing capital. Furthermore, mobile home park tenant turnover is incredibly low (often 10-20% per year vs 50%+ for most multifamily properties) due to the high costs to transport a mobile home.
Multifamily assets require significantly less ongoing capital than your typical suburban office investments and, I would argue, offer investors far superior risk-adjusted returns vs. speculative developments. Therefore, if you happen to catch me investing in a speculative suburban office building 20 years from now, please slap me.
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Both the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) and the Realtors Association of Edmonton (RAE) reported this week that the average cost for a single family detached home has reached a record high. | Realtor.ca The Huffington Post Alberta
"My hope is the gap between supply and demand will become less. Having more supply, which statistically we do in the spring market, will give buyers more selection to choose from and not have to make same day decisions," she said.
Josh and Katy Chapman have just recently bought a townhouse in the Freemont development in Port Coquitlam.
BY EVAN DUGGAN, VANCOUVER SUN
Photograph by: wayne leidenfrost , Vancouver Sun
Fremont in Port Coquitlam is the kind of master-planned community that invokes images of the 1998 film The Truman Show. With its immaculate riverfront residential neighbourhood, sprawling business park, and proximity to schools, services and walking trails, the developers bill it as the kind of place you never need, or would want, to leave.
Of course, Jim Carrey’s character, Truman Burbank, couldn’t leave his perfectly-orchestrated town. He was trapped in a dome and his life was being broadcast live on television.
But if the Fremont project proves anything about development in Metro Vancouver, it’s that people here have yet to grow tired of massive mixed-use communities. There also appears to be no shortage of businesses interested in setting up shop in places like Fremont.
The $500-million-dollar development broke ground in 2013 under the watch of developer Mosaic along with Onni Group and Conwest Contracting. It’s the largest development of its kind in the Tri-Cities, flanking the western shore of the Pitt River on one side and Lougheed Highway on the other.
The commercial portion is about 60 per cent finished, said Steve Bernier of Onni Group. He said construction of the final 300,000-sq.-ft. parcel has now begun, which will house the “Lifestyle Centre” component, featuring a mix of fashion outlets, grocery stores, restaurants and other services. When all is said and done, Fremont will have 700,000 square feet of retail space. It already includes a Walmart and a Canadian Tire, he said.
The next phase will also have a light industrial business park, a “high-street” with smaller shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as two 30-storey residential towers (Onni is now working on securing the building permits for the towers).
Fremont will also include a private community centre, a church and an array of walking trails. Terry Fox secondary and Carnoustie Golf Club are within walking distance.
Bernier said the existing retail space is already 92 per cent leased and they are now locking up tenants for the next phase. “We feel this project is a destination for the entire Tri-City area,” Bernier said in an email, adding that they will build to suit. “The ‘Lifestyle’ aspect of [the next phase] will create a vibrant community feel, featuring a wide, meandering road, and large restaurant patios.”
The adjacent residential component, under development by Mosaic, will have 1,000 row homes and lowrise condos, with roughly 4,000 residents.
Josh and Kaitlyn Chapman were among the first 75 homeowners to move in to the neighbourhood. (The homes are for sale from mid-$300,000 to just over $500,000.)
The couple had been living in the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver, much nearer to Vancouver General Hospital where Katy works as a nurse, said Josh, a Burnaby firefighter.
Fremont was the first development they looked at after deciding to escape the city. “It made perfect sense for us,” he said. “Every amenity that you need is right at your fingertips.”
He said the unique design of the row homes also attracted them. “Even though you still are in a row home … it kind of gives you the feel that you are in your own place,” he said, adding that they hope to soon have children. “Our place overlooks the Pitt River, so we have an amazing view,” he said.
Geoff Duyker, the VP of Mosaic, said Fremont is drawing lot of young families buying their first home as well as many older couples who are downsizing. “We’re able to provide housing that can [bring in] multi-generations,” he said. “That creates great character.”
The latest number for home sales in Metro Vancouver are in.
Photograph by: Richard Buchan , CP
VANCOUVER — Buyers favoured houses in the suburbs and condos in pricier urban communities in March according to sales results released Wednesday for the Lower Mainland’s main property markets.
March sales showed an improvement from a year ago, but transactions continued to trend below their 10-year average, according to the reports.
“There has been a consistent balance between home-seller supply and homebuyer demand in our marketplace over the last year,” said Ray Harris, the newly installed president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a news release.
Realtors saw 2,641 sales through the Multiple Listing Service in Metro Vancouver (excluding Surrey), an increase of 13 per cent from the same month a year ago with house sales outpacing other property types in the Richmond, Port Coquitlam, North Vancouver and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows.
However, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said the total remained 17 per cent below the 10-year average for March sales.
The component of detached-home sales across the region in was 1,116, which was up 20 per cent compared with a year ago with a benchmark price, an average for typical homes sold, at $945,400, up 4.2 per cent from March 2013.
Condo sales were outpaced, slightly, at 1,106 in March, which was still an increase of 13 per cent from a year ago. However, within the region, condo sales outpaced detached homes on the west side of Vancouver, in Burnaby and New Westminster.
It was townhomes that saw a decline in Metro Vancouver, down three per cent at 432 in March compared with a year ago at a benchmark price of $460,100, up 1.3 per cent from a year ago.
The proportion of house sales increased in the Fraser Valley (including Surrey) according to Ray Werger, new president of the Fraser Valley real estate board.
Valley realtors saw 1,259 sales cleared through MLS in March, up 12 per cent from the same month a year ago and detached homes made up 58 per cent of the number, compared with 55 per cent a year ago.
“Our main buyers are families looking for the best value possible by taking advantage of continuing low interest rates and stable home prices,” Werger said in a news release.
The benchmark for detached homes in March was $563,400, up 3.5 per cent from a year ago, on 651 sales, according to the board’s report.
However, the benchmark prices on other property types fell, 0.4 per cent on townhouses year-over-year to $297,100 and 4.3 per cent on condos to $195,400.
The data relating to real estate on this website comes in part from the MLS® Reciprocity program of either the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) or the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB). Real estate listings held by participating real estate firms are marked with the MLS® logo and detailed information about the listing includes the name of the listing agent. This representation is based in whole or part on data generated by either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB which assumes no responsibility for its accuracy. The materials contained on this page may not be reproduced without the express written consent of either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB.